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In the latest stimulus package making its way through Congress, there’s no extension of the national ban on evictions that is set to expire this month, meaning millions of Americans could be at risk of losing their homes as the Covid-19 pandemic still rages.
However, because Democrats have decided to pass the legislation through a process called budget reconciliation, they can’t include the eviction ban in the relief bill.
Democrats are pursuing the reconciliation route so that they can push through a massive $1.9 trillion stimulus bill without Republican support. Procedural rules in the Senate typically require bills to garner 60 votes to advance. Democrats have just 50 members, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to offer one more vote when needed. Budget reconciliation, on the other hand, requires only a simple majority.
Yet it also doesn’t let Democrats include Biden’s wish to extend the ban.
“Because an eviction moratorium itself makes no direct changes to federal spending or revenues, it’s something that wouldn’t be allowed under the reconciliation process,” said Douglas Rice, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The Senate parliamentarian recently came to a similar conclusion about Democrats’ attempts to raise the federal minimum wage through reconciliation. The expenses of raising the minimum wage and extending the eviction moratorium would largely fall on the private sector, including with small businesses and landlords.
To be included in budget reconciliation, a provision “has to affect the federal government’s budget,” said Steven S. Smith, a political science professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first announced the national eviction moratorium in September. It prohibits evictions of those struggling to pay rent.
Advocates are now calling on the president to extend the protection through executive order, warning of a flood of evictions if no action is taken.
They point out that relief in the bill, including more than $20 billion in rental assistance and direct payments of up to $1,400, will take time to reach people.
“An eviction moratorium bides that time,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Around 1 in 5 renters said they were not caught up on their rent in January, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities. Closer to 36% of Black renters said they were behind.
A high volume of evictions could thwart the country’s efforts to get the pandemic under control. Recent research has found that evictions lead to significantly more coronavirus cases and deaths in an area.
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